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Monrovia shuts down

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Monrovia and its suburbs have suffered the severe economic shock of a peaceful assembly graced by thousands of aggrieved citizens on June 7, as panicking private businesses and schools shut down completely on Friday despite government call to go about their normal businesses.

On President George MannehWeah’s order, public offices appear to defy the distractions that came on the day of the peaceful assembly by remaining opened, but it is uncertain what service they were able to render on the day that looks much like a public holiday.

The day witnessed heavy joint security deployment and tough screening of commuters, after the well-armed security forces conducted a rare confidence patrol on Thursday, 6 June across Monrovia and its surroundings.

Neither President Weah nor his Vice President Jewel Howard – Taylor could receive a petition from the protest organizers Council of Patriots (COP) which is backed by Liberia’s four collaborating opposition parties and other government critics.

In place of the two leaders, a government delegation including Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean, Foreign Minister Milton Findley, Bomi Rep. Edwin Snowe and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Envoy to Liberia assembled outside the Capitol for the protesters to present their petition.

But it did not work after it emerged lately that the protesters wanted some of their members held in police custody to be released before they could proceed further.

There was no violence seen or reported so far, but there were series of occasions when COP members and supporters apprehended certain individuals from their midst and immediately turned them over to police to avoid conflict.

One of the key engineer of the June 7 “Save the State” protest, talk show host Henry Costa told an interview during the peaceful assembly on Capitol Hill that they want transparency in the way the government conducts itself.

He demands President Weah to publish his assets to enable the citizenry to know what he owns and where he got the money from to build all the houses in a short period.
“We want the president to publish his assets; we want to know what he owns before becoming president; we want to know where he got the money from to build all those houses while our people are suffering,” Costa says.

“We want Samuel Tweah and Nathaniel Patray fired and prosecuted for their role in the $25 million scandal; we want George Weah to undo his CTN – the Tracking Number Deal [at the Port] that is increasing the cost of commodity on the market for our people. We want the war crimes court,” Costa explains further.

The protesters and other government critics continue to see Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Executive Governor Nathaniel Patray key persons that must answer question over the alleged mismanagement of US$25m intended to mop-up excess Liberian dollars.

The General Auditing Commission has cited series of inconsistencies in the mop-up process because certain entities listed to have received part of the money could not be seen, but Justice Minister Musa Dean insists that no money went missing during the mop-up.

But Costa says protesters will not rest until their demands are addressed.
Also speaking on the war crimes court, Costa indicates that all members of the COP support the establishment of the war crimes court.

“Because they feel they are innocent, so they will have their day in court,” he says in response to suggestion that some COP members are listed in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report for their roles in the past Liberian civil war.

Earlier in interview with state – run University of Liberia student Thomas Saah Saleh on the protest ground on Capitol Hill, he laments that the country is not proceeding well, and that the peaceful assembly is intended to petition President Weah to take some actions.

Another protester from the Old Road Community, Prince Ford complains too that rice price is high and the foreign exchange rate keeps going up.“I want the government to come up and drop the rate. If the government drops the rate, things will come down,” he says.

A resident of Gardnersville Mr. NjamilahSaahBornquoi says he joined the protest on Capitol Hill because he believes that if things are fine in the country, every Liberian will benefit, regardless of which political party they affiliate with.“When things are hard, it affects everybody. And so with the current situation in the country, the economy is hard,” he laments.Elderly women and men, young people and students took part in the protest to demand some reforms in government here.

It is not clear what will be the next course of action, but it is reported that the COP is planning to call a press conference on Monday, 10 June.By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

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